What about Evelyn?
In the light of a recent A&E series covering the murder of Laci Peterson, I could not help comparing her case to the one of Evelyn Hernandez who hardly received any media attention, even on the day her body was found in the bay or when her death was confirmed through DNA months later, on Labor Day.
It is a textbook example of the power of the media and how it can help make or break a case. The family and friends of Evelyn Hernandez would have loved to see trucks and reporters descend on her street to encourage viewers to call in their tips.
The detective assigned to Evelyn’s case felt at a loss without leads or any kind of exposure.
But as we saw in the case of Laci Peterson, media attention can become a double-edged sword because the cops are pressured to find a culprit and to get fast results. Expecting father, Scott Peterson, paid a high price for this exposure, unlike Herman Aguilera, the father of Evelyn’s baby, who was not even considered a suspect and eventually ceased to cooperate with the police.
They accused Peterson of not wanting his child and of disposing of his wife and son in the bay and left Aguilera alone even if as a married man, he was clear about not wanting the child Evelyn was carrying.
There was a rush to judgment towards Peterson who was praised as a good husband and hardly any interest in Aguilera who had a reason to want Evelyn gone.
On July 24, 2002, the partial remains of Evelyn Hernandez were found floating in the San Francisco Bay, underneath the city’s landmark Bay Bridge.
She had been reported missing by her married lover one week after she was last seen on May 1st, 2002, after picking up her 5-year-old son Alex at daycare.
Evelyn was 9 months pregnant when she disappeared and the body of her infant was never found. Her beloved little boy Alex was never found either, and was listed as missing.
Evelyn was 24 when she vanished. She was a legal immigrant from El Salvador who came to the US at the age of 14 and was living in the Crocker Amazon area of San Francisco with her 5-year-old son Alexis.
She was trained as a vocational nurse, had worked at Costco and in the hotel industry.
Evelyn, whose English skills were limited, was from the school of hard knocks but had been able to remain optimistic, calm and dedicated through adversity, and her goal was to forge a good life for herself and her children.
Alex’s father was in the Navy and had cut ties with them. She received no financial or emotional support from him.
Despite the difficulties that being a single parent entails, Evelyn was described as very positive and quite endearing. She worked hard and focused on her son.
At the time of her disappearance, she was 1 or 2 weeks away from giving birth to another little boy she planned to name Fernando.
As bad luck would have it, she had met and was dating an older man named Herman Aguilera who worked at the airport and as a limo driver, and he had lied to her about being single.
When she got pregnant and delivered him the good news, he sucker punched her by announcing that he had a wife.
Note to Gloria Allred: Evelyn is what a real victim of circumstances is, contrary to the harpies you represent for mutual financial gain. We did not see you trying to poke your nose in this case to help.
According to friends and family, Herman Aguilera was not thrilled at the idea of being a father, and wanted no part in his child’s life.
He was trying to distance himself from the situation, but it seems that Evelyn told him in no uncertain terms that she would go after him for child support.
The tragic disappearance of Evelyn and Alex right before the birth of her child made it logical to suspect her cheating lover.
Hernandez’s case barely made a dent in the community and in Bay Area news, shows and newspapers.
Instead, the eyes of the nation soon became transfixed on the search for another pregnant woman who would vanish and become nothing less than a national obsession. Her name was Laci Peterson.
It took a month to hold a press conference about the disappearance of Evelyn and her son and no arrests were ever made. The married lover was questioned but not taped or brought to the police station on the first night and the alibi his wife conveniently offered was accepted. They were not going to jump to conclusions.
Evelyn’s family tried to get a search organized, but the volunteers were hard to find considering the limited information being disseminated about the case.
There was no uproar about the pregnant lady who disappeared with her little boy. And the cops were not eager to accuse their main person of interest.
One can only deduct that as an immigrant, Evelyn, who was from a lower socioeconomic background and a single mom with a deadbeat dad and married lover, did not represent big ratings for the media.
No matter how hard her family had tried to have her case featured, it did not happen right away and scarcely created interest.
The whole case was basically shoved aside to focus on the disappearance of pregnant Laci Peterson who was reported missing by her family on December 24, 2002, in Modesto, California.
Her remains were found on April 14, 2003, after her infant’s body had been found intact a day earlier on the San Francisco Bay shore in Richmond’s Point Isabel Regional Shoreline park, north of Berkeley.
From the first two days of her disappearance, up to 900 people had been involved in her search.
The exact cause of Laci’s death was impossible to determine because of decomposition; the body had no head, both forearms were missing, the right foot was severed, and the left leg from the knee down was missing.
In Evelyn’s case, whose remains were found in July 2002, a badly-decomposed pair of legs and a torso were found floating in the San Francisco bay. She had no hands, head or feet and her body wore a maternity blouse.
There was no sign of her almost-full-term baby Fernando, or of her son Alexis. The cause of death was undetermined, and they were unable to ascertain if her baby was forcibly removed, delivered naturally or expelled in a coffin birth scenario.
You would think that the two cases would have been instantly linked and that they would have put as much effort to solve each one of them, but this is not what took place.
Instead, when Scott Peterson’s lawyers requested access to Hernandez autopsy reports in 2003 after he was accused of murdering Laci, only the autopsy photos were provided.
On May 1, 2002, Evelyn dropped her son off at day care, used an ATM machine, continued preparations for a baby shower, and later picked Alexis up. From then on, they vanished.
Her wallet was found in a parking lot, containing $40 and a check with her name on it. It indicates that robbery was not a motive, but someone wanted to hide her identity.
The fact that Herman Aguilera reported her missing only after a week and before her own family members and friends thought of contacting the authorities, could be perceived as very strange considering that they were preparing a baby shower for her.
The parking lot where the wallet was found was close to a gas station often used by the limo company that Aguilera worked for. In other reports, it is stated that he worked near this station.
Aguilera was questioned because of his strong motive, and the fact that Alex also disappeared and would have been able to identify him.
Aguilera initially co-operated fully with the investigation but lawyered up and eventually refused to talk.
He maintains his innocence and his alibi that he was at home with his wife.
His wife knew that he had an affair but she did not know Evelyn was pregnant until informed by the police. At least, that is what she said.
No warrant was ever issued for Aguilera’s arrest, and there is no forensic evidence connecting him to the crime.
He was described as ‘not a serious suspect’.
The parking lot where Evelyn’s wallet was found was easily accessible and frequented by many. If Evelyn was dismembered and her baby removed, where did this happen?
And where was her young son Alex?
If Aguilera or his wife were involved, it would have been a huge endeavor that would have required a space other than their home and a lot of preparation, unless of course, he hired someone to do his dirty work.
I could not find out if the cops checked for any unusual amount of money he could have withdrawn during that period of time. And surprise, surprise, they did not tap his phone because you do not treat a person of interest this way, unless his name is Scott Peterson.
The other option is that the abduction was the work of complete strangers. I will not descend into satanic territory or other scenarios, but there is an underbelly out there that most people do not like to admit exists.
It does not appear that they received many tips or investigated thoroughly to find answers to solve this sordid crime and to find young Alex.
Investigators were adamant that there was no connection between Evelyn and Laci but they both ended up in the SF Bay in 2002-2003 while heavily pregnant.
Initial reaction to Laci’s disappearance
The minute Laci was reported missing, the detectives showed up and decided that Scott Peterson was their man.
His house and warehouse were searched with his permission on that first night. He was brought to the police station, taped and interviewed right away.
Detective Brocchini admitted to having never done that before.
Scott’s alibi was simple, he drove to his warehouse and then went out fishing at the Berkeley marina. It was easily verified because he was on his computer at the warehouse and had a ticket from the marina and some witnesses had seen him and his boat.
There were no signs of a struggle and no DNA at the house or at the warehouse. Scott did not have scratches or injuries and even if described as very upset by many, was considered emotionless by the investigators.
At the time and by all accounts, he was a great husband and he and Laci had a great marriage. You could not find one soul to speak badly of him.
Initial reaction to Evelyn and Alex Hernandez’ disappearance
Police did not convene an information conference until a month after their disappearance. It took a year for the mayor to offer a reward of $10,000.
Within a week, the reward for Laci Peterson was at $500,000. She also had a vocal family advocating on her behalf, and the financial and public relations help of a well-connected crime victims group in Modesto, the Sund/Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation.
A friend of Evelyn named Twiggy Damy said “This girl (Laci), she’s white, they have money, and there is a family behind her. Who cares about Evelyn, a single mother who moved to San Francisco from El Salvador when she was 14?’’
“The first time I heard Laci’s case, I got flashbacks from Evelyn, because it is the same case,” Damy said. “That’s very hard to see, why one gets more attention than the other.”
Families of crime victims know that the media spotlight keeps pressure on police to work quickly to solve the case and that publicity helps them enlist the help of citizens whose tips might lead to the recovery of the victims, their safe return or to an arrest.
San Francisco police inspector, Holly Pera, took on Evelyn’s case when it became a suspected homicide and declared “Our greatest hope would have been for someone to say, yes, I saw her here, with this person.”
At first, they conveniently speculated that Evelyn may have gone away to have her baby on her own, and that is why their 1st news conference happened a month after she vanished.
I am sorry, but that made no sense. Evelyn’s suitcase with everything she needed to give birth was found in her apartment and nothing was missing to indicate she had left.
She had not notified her son’s daycare or her family of her absence, which was a red flag considering that she was ready to pop and family and friends were throwing her a baby shower.
How strange that a team of detectives thought that Scott going fishing was suspicious because Laci was 8 months pregnant, but another team thought nothing of a 9 months pregnant woman suddenly going away with her little boy in tow with no luggage.
Evelyn’s small circle of friends and a sister who lives in the East Bay planned a memorial service in San Francisco that drew 100 people. It was the same small community that had circulated flyers when she disappeared.
According to a Vanity Fair reporter who was in Modesto at the time of Laci’s funeral, there were more limos than for Elvis Presley’s funeral. There was a choir and a huge crowd.
Friends and family tried repeatedly to get Hernandez’s case featured on “America’s Most Wanted” but were rejected because no warrant had been issued for a suspect.
But the show had done a story on Laci Peterson although at the time, no suspects had been named in that case either.
Evelyn finally obtained a segment on an episode of America’s Most Wanted in 2003, and two pages in People magazine were published about her case.
Rush to Judgment
There was an obvious rush to judgment in the case of Laci Peterson. The detectives worked on proving that her husband, Scott Peterson, was guilty and ignored very important aspects of the investigation.
They came up with a narrative that left no room for presumption of innocence.
Detective Brocchini had decided that he was guilty on the first night of the investigation.
The fact that Scott had 4 dates with a woman called Amber Frey before his wife disappeared and that he lied about losing his wife to have sex with her, gave the detectives the excuse they were waiting for to amplify their guilt campaign with the help of the media.
They had this girl give a press conference that would make sure to inflame viewers and renew the interest of the media.
In the case of Evelyn Hernandez, the detectives did not jump to conclusions. Herman Aguilera was interrogated and they accepted the alibi provided by his wife.
Even if he had lied to his wife and his mistress Evelyn, they did not feed any narrative to the media or try to sensationalize the case. It is not like the media was paying attention anyway.
There was no DNA at the Peterson’s home or at the Aguilera’s home, but they still considered Peterson guilty while accepting that they could not prove that Aguilera had anything to do with his lover’s death.
It was not the same group of detectives, but they are supposed to abide by the same rules of law.
The lead detective in the Hernandez case would have loved some help from the media to get tips from the public or any kind of witnesses. But it did not happen.
The lead detective in the Peterson’s case did not care much about tips from witnesses who saw Laci and her dog. He only cared about witnesses that could prove that Scott did it.
No dogs were used in the Hernandez’ case.
They used several scent dogs in the Peterson’s case and gave credence to the one that could not pass the sniff test but pointed at Laci being at the marina.
That same dog failed its certification and lost it a year later. The other canines did not detect the presence of Laci in the boat, at the warehouse, in the truck or at the marina.
They used the brief affair Peterson had to call him a pathological liar, while the other detectives in the Hernandez’ case, respected due process even if Aguilera told Evelyn he was married only when she announced her pregnancy.
The two cases were strikingly similar but were treated in a totally different manner.
I am surprised that they denied any link between the 2 disappearances. Even if the lover or husband can be a logical suspect, it is obvious that linking the two cases would have gone against the narrative against Peterson.
What about Evelyn?
Were they willing to compromise her investigation to get Scott?
The media persecuted Scott Peterson, created a star witness out of a mistress who was simply a booty call, and helped her record tapes that would serve to fabricate prejudicial evidence out of thin air.
They glorified viciously ignorant jurors and made room for ambulance chasers like Gloria Allred, Nancy Grace, and many other outrageous pseudo reporters who came out of the woodwork after they smelled blood in order to cash in; financially or career wise.
In his 1991 autobiography, Geraldo Rivera who has been ragging on Peterson since day one, has bragged about sleeping with 1000 women and since then, has confessed to cheating on 4 of his former wives. Yes, 5 is the charm.
And this media whore still makes appearances on TV shows to stand in judgment of Scott Peterson about his brief affair with Frey.
Click to read his interview about pesky sexual harassment laws and temptations.
They mostly ignored Aguilera or any person of interest and did not really try to gather interest in the case.
Considering that little Alexis or Fernando could still have been alive somewhere, I would depict their behavior as criminally negligent.
Mind you, when you look at the way they contributed to send Peterson to death row based on his fishing trip in a small boat in shallow water, I cannot help thinking that if Aguilera was innocent, he got lucky they did not get involved.
Otherwise, like Peterson, he might now be sitting in a cell in San Quentin.
The role of the media
After watching the recent A&E series on the Laci Peterson murder, I was reminded of the rightful role that the media should play in a criminal case. It is to present both sides in an impartial manner and to help the detectives get more tips in an untainted manner.
A media outlet was finally bold enough to include the missing elements of the case with commentaries from main players from both sides.
It was a rude awakening for a lot of viewers who had followed the case in the media and were repeatedly fed the same narrative.
The legal analysts who still have a reasonable doubt about the case were demure and professional. On the other hand, we saw the protagonists for the other side sounding vindictive, and even vicious at times.
The jurors that appeared on the show did not even realize that they were a testament to the unfairness of the case. They sounded ignorant and vindictive.
To think that to this day, Richelle Nice still thinks that Laci was wearing the same pants as the night before, and that Trimble the dog who failed miserably, was convincing.
She also lied on her jury questionnaire and had the nerve to perpetuate the lie on the TV show.
Juror 8 (Guinasso) who intimidated the first foreperson and is responsible for his dismissal and for the booting of another juror who believed in the presumption of innocence, came across as a vindictive fool.
This is what Gregory Jackson, the 1st foreperson, told the judge who dismissed him instead of the problematic jurors.
This same juror diagnosed Peterson as a sex addict because he had adult content channels, and in his book, We, the Jury, demonstrated that he did not grasp that Amber Frey was lying during her taped conversations with Scott and bloody well knew that he was married.
How can he not get a new trial after this horrendous display?
Detective Buehler said on camera that he did not know that there were witnesses who saw Laci, but in a subsequent interview, admitted interviewing 3 of them.
Another detective admitted leaking information to a local reporter because she was pretty.
The prosecution tried to say that it was impossible for Laci’s body to be dumped in the bay if not by boat, and very uncommon.
They even alleged that Laci’s body was spotted with a Sonar in mid-March, but could not be retrieved; which was strongly refuted by Modesto police Sgt. Ron Cloward, who was in charge of the search.
Interestingly enough, the detectives had told the search team that the bay was a huge dumping ground for bodies and they might come across some of them.
And what about Evelyn? How did she end up in the bay?
Mark Geragos was right to say in his closing argument that the investigation was not well coordinated. The right hand did not know what the left hand was doing, and it became a huge mess.
The role of the media is to make sure that a defendant gets a fair trial and that both sides are reported fairly and truthfully. What went wrong here?
I am glad that A&E finally had the courage to present a more balanced report.
The media failed Laci Peterson and Evelyn Hernandez by pushing a guilty narrative on one side while ignoring the other.
What about Evelyn?
What about Evelyn? There might never be justice for her and her 2 boys. The detectives had no leads and were too slow to react, and the media did very little to help find her boys or her assailant/s.
Let us hope that her family and friends will eventually get the answers they are looking for.